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« "Neither the state nor the anti-smoker industry owns our children" | Main | Why should politicians have different standards to the judiciary? »

Linda Bauld: “Smoking in the UK kills one baby every day"

You may have heard Pat Nurse on Five Live Breakfast this morning.

As a smoker who puffed her way through four (?) pregnancies, Pat was invited to discuss a new report, published today by the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group which is led by The Lullaby Trust and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS) and supported by ASH.

It might be easier, and quicker, to reproduce parts of the press release we received yesterday. (It was embargoed until midnight.)

A coalition of baby charities, campaigners, leading academics and health experts is calling for a national Carbon Monoxide (CO) screening programme for mums-to-be to help save more babies’ lives ...

Smoking is the main cause of high levels of CO in pregnant women, but a raised CO reading can also be due to breathing in second-hand smoke, the inhalation of fumes from faulty exhausts, or poorly ventilated cooking or heating appliances.

Members of the Challenge Group, which also includes the Royal College of Midwives, Tommy’s and the Royal College of Nursing, have come together for the first time to recommend urgent action to help pregnant women identify whether they have high CO levels that may be damaging to the health of their baby.

Offering every pregnant woman in the country a simple breath test to identify her level of exposure to CO, will allow smokers to consider quitting, and non-smokers to identify whether they have had any involuntary exposure from other sources such as faulty appliances ...

The Lullaby Trust’s Chief Executive Francine Bates, said: “We know that smoking in pregnancy is a significant risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It’s been estimated that over 100 SIDS deaths could be prevented every year if no pregnant woman smoked.

“Mothers under 20 are five times more likely to suffer the tragedy of SIDS than those over 30. They are also more likely to smoke and find it difficult to understand why smoking has such a devastating impact on their baby’s health. Immediate results from a quick and simple test, together with the support from their midwife could persuade many young women to kick their habit”

Professor Linda Bauld, from the University of Stirling and the UKCTCS, said: “Smoking in the UK kills one baby every day. That’s why this Government’s ambition is so important.

“Unfortunately, unless we take urgent additional action this target will not be met. This report is a call to action to the government, health professionals, baby charities and researchers, but most of all it’s a call to action to mothers: understand the harm, protect your baby.”

The quote that stands out is the extraordinary claim by our old friend Professor Bauld that “Smoking in the UK kills one baby every day."

For an academic, Prof Bauld certainly has a way with soundbites.

I'm less impressed by her casual attitude to detail. Note how she says, "Smoking in the UK kills one baby every day", not "Smoking during pregnancy kills one baby every day".

If the latter was true (which I don't believe it is) that would be a pretty arresting statement. Instead, like all tobacco control campaigners, Bauld wants to implicate all smokers.

The aim, conscious or otherwise, is to make all smokers feel guilty.

To download the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group report click here – Smoking Cessation in Pregnancy: a call to action.

Here's Forest's response to the press release (not the report, which we hadn't read at that point):

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group Forest, said: "We support initiatives that educate and inform women about the risks of smoking during pregnancy, but this has the potential to be quite invasive.

"If a screening programme is voluntary there's no problem. No-one however should be forced to take a carbon monoxide test or made to feel like a leper if they decline. It's their choice and their decision must be respected."

He added: "We don't condone smoking during pregnancy and we would always advise pregnant women to listen to their GP or midwife.

"Nevertheless the suggestion that smoking during pregnancy costs one baby's life every day sounds like a headline grabbing estimate rather than an undisputed fact based on scientific evidence.

"Pregnancy is a stressful time for many women. Alarming them with emotive soundbites is not going to help."

Interestingly, and despite the gold dust nature of Linda Bauld's incendiary comment, the media has reacted rather coolly to her claim that “Smoking in the UK kills one baby every day".

Apart from Five Live, and a cursory report in the Daily Mirror, I'm struggling to find any coverage of the report in print or online.

PS. Pat has emailed to say she is also doing BBC Three Counties radio. If there is any further coverage today I'll update this post.

H/T Dick Puddlecote – The report is the subject of the Five Live phone-in.

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Reader Comments (20)

You mention (above) Francine Bates, Chief Executive of the Lullaby Trust, who said: “We know that smoking in pregnancy is a significant risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It’s been estimated that over 100 SIDS deaths could be prevented every year if no pregnant woman smoked.

Francine Bates has made a career out of spinning - she was in fact a special advisor to Ed Balls when Labour were in power - that about sums this lot up doesn't it?

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 10:36 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Moralizing fanatics/zealots/extremists of any era are the same. In attempting to force conformity to their questionable worldview, the zealots’ claims become progressively more absurd and inflammatory, and their demands become progressively more draconian and inhumane.

Pregnancy has long been a favorite stomping ground for the moralizing fools, playing a tug of war over who has “ownership” of the pregnant woman.

Antismoking concerning pregnancy and baseless, highly inflammatory claims predates the current wave. Early in the 1900’s it was some church groups (e.g., Methodist Episcopal Church’s Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals) that considered nicotine as a “killer of babies.” The “controversy” was picked up by the New York Times in two stories. In one story it was claimed that 40 babies from a New York maternity hospital “suffered from tobacco heart caused by the cigaret smoking of their mothers.” In the other it was claimed that “sixty percent of all babies born of cigaret-smoking mothers die before they reach the age of two, due primarily to nicotine poisoning.” (quoted in Oaks, 2001, p.53; Journal of the American Medical Association, 1929, p.123) The American Tobacco Trust was viewed by the church board as “conscienceless baby-killers” that by promoting cigarettes to women were directing a “lying murderous campaign.”
From “Rampant Antismoking Signifies Grave Danger”, p.306

This book also has a considerable section on the history of issues relating to smoking and pregnancy/early childhood, p.305-335.

The book is available free to download at

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 10:49 | Unregistered CommenterOberon

Here’s an example of what antismoking extremism produces with the constant play on fear and hate.
A Washington state man has been arrested on allegations that he pointed a handgun at a pregnant woman because she was smoking a cigarette.
Bellingham police spokesman Mark Young says 24-year-old Justin Dain Palmer reportedly stopped his pickup truck Wednesday to shout at a smoker on a sidewalk, "Who the heck smokes when they're pregnant?" The woman replied, "I do."
Police stopped Palmer a short time later. Young says Palmer acknowledged confronting the woman but denied pulling a gun. Police say they found two semiautomatic .45-caliber handguns in his pickup's center console.
Young says Palmer was arrested for investigation of pointing a gun.

The risks of smoking during pregnancy have been blown out of all proportion. Yet this driver, “educated” by 30 years of antismoking fanaticism, was under the deranged belief that the risk of smoking a cigarette while pregnant was way larger that a stranger pulling a gun on a pregnant woman in a street encounter particularly focused on her smoking, and that it was his business to “set her right”.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 10:51 | Unregistered CommenterOberon

Over the last three decades, antismoking fanaticism has produced many abominable claims. And right up there in the abominable category is the claim that smoking/SHS “causes” SIDS.

SIDS in particular presents a peculiar situation. Unlike other mortality, it has no identified disease precondition. It is a syndrome defined by exclusion rather than demonstrable, specific pathology. When no other pathology explanation is possible, it is labeled as the unexplained category of SIDS: “SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant under 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough case investigation, including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history…”

If there is any “positive” in the circumstance is that SIDS is rare. There has been much research into SIDS producing a very long list of risk factors. The problem is that, given that SIDS is rare, in Relative Risk assessments, the baseline is small, barely above zero. Even RRs of 5.0, 10.0, 20.0 don’t necessarily mean anything because they are multiplications of a tiny baseline.

The implication of smoking/SHS in SIDS is extremely poor. For example, the incidence of SIDS in Japan is extremely low despite there being a high incidence of smoking and SHS exposure. Further, the incidence of SIDS in the West began to increase as smoking prevalence was decreasing.

There are far, FAR more mechanistically plausible causes of SIDS than SHS, e.g., accidental smothering while the infant is sharing a bed with parents. In the case of accidental smothering, underlying causation, in mechanistic terms, is completely understood. In such cases, SIDS is not SIDS. There is clearly definable underlying causation that has nothing to do with a “mystery” syndrome.

The idea of SHS “causing” SIDS has been pushed by antismoking fanatics. Advocacy/activist groups (including the Office of the Surgeon-General) can essentially say whatever they want, however outrageous. They are not held to account because no-one is compelled to pay attention to any of their claims. But the fanatics keep pushing these causal claims as if they are definitive.

Pushing the idea of SHS “causes” SIDS is particularly repugnant in attempting to force antismoking conformity. In the case of SHS and SIDS all sides of the causal equation are, and remain, unknown – even after “causal attribution”. According to the antismoking fanatics, an unknown attribute(s) of highly-dilute remnants of tobacco smoke produces an unknown condition through an undefined process that results in mortality. Such a proposition is only delusional - preposterous. This is not causal explanation: It is derangement. It is nothing short of staggering that such claims are even given cursory consideration let alone incoherently elevated to the status of “definitiveness.”

There is a respect for grieving parents where, for example, accidental smothering is suspected. There is an attempt to protect them from further grief by not belaboring the causal point, if mentioning it at all. But not so the antismoking fanatics. If they suspect that smoking had occurred somewhere in the vicinity of a SIDS case, they come out firing, utterly sure in their “causal understanding” of the situation, fingers wagging, obsessed with making as many repetitions of blame as possible. Again, this says nothing of the propensities of SHS, but indicates the depth of depravity of antismoking fanaticism.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 10:59 | Unregistered CommenterOberon
Pat Nurse on 1.24.00 in

Yet another great performance Pat. Well done

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 12:07 | Unregistered CommenterChas

The R5Live "debate" was the usual nonsense of nicotine addicts desperately trying to justify their habit. Of course nobody can stop dimwits smoking whilst pregnant but let's not pretend that it's anything other than damaging and harmful to the unborn child.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 13:51 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew McNair

Dimwits are the gullible who ignore science and swallow any old crap because it fits their own prejudices. if you can't debate without being offensive then why bother to pop in and throw abuse. That's why you people don't get smokers onside with your campaign. You have nothing of value to add other than cheap name calling those who profoundly disagree with you.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 14:31 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Hey, Andy, if you believe that smoking during pregnancy is “damaging and harmful to the unborn baby”…… something along the lines of “everybody knows that smoking harms your baby”…… then you are either one of the brainwashers or one of the successfully brainwashed.

Look at the Godber Blueprint, the framework for the current crusade. Here’s an insight into how antismoking fanatics/zealots/extremists “reason”:
“Donovan’s most interesting remarks related to smoking and pregnancy. He admitted that he couldn’t explain how or why smoking harmed the fetus but suggested that, instead of worrying about such fine points, women be told that all unborn children of smoking women will be hurt. Donovan urged every participant to go back to their countries and publish estimates of the lethality of smoking and pregnancy based on the number of pregnant smokers. He urged this as an effective method to get women to stop smoking. 1979 (p.14)”

This is the sort of inflammatory trash that has been fed to the public for the last 30 years. Facts don’t matter. All that matters to antismoking fanatics/zealots/extremists is what needs to be said repeatedly to terrorize women into antismoking conformity.

The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of births to women smokers are comparable to the vast majority of births to women nonsmokers. It’s something like 96% (smokers) comparable to about 98.5% (nonsmokers) births. The fanatics obsessively focus on that small differential where problem births occur, and of entirely questionable causal status concerning smoking. The fanatics then attempt to portray this tiny [atypical] differential as if it is the typical occurrence for pregnant smokers.

Those claiming that smoking “harms” a tiny subgroup of newborns, let alone any and every baby, are brainwashed liars. They are deluded folk – like you, Andy – promoting baseless, highly inflammatory propaganda. And there’s nothing new here. That’s what rabid fanatics typically do….. they incessantly lie to advance their deranged prohibition agenda.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 14:47 | Unregistered CommenterOberon

The only dimwits are those who believe all the anti-smoking propaganda.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 14:49 | Unregistered CommenterChas

Andrew, let’s be clear. While you insist “nicotine addicts desperately trying to justify their habit” – a throwback claim to the mid-1800s, I would strongly suggest that you’re a rabid antismoking zealot/extremist. You’re someone with impaired reasoning attempting to masquerade as not only normal but a “moral superior”. Andy, you’re a fake just like your fanatical predecessors.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 14:55 | Unregistered CommenterOberon

No, Mr McNair.
You are making the usual mistake (except when it is not a mistake but is deliberate) of generalising from the particular.
Take SIDS for example. In England and Wales in 2010, there were 723,165 live births out of which there were 130 SIDS deaths. That means that 723,035 did not suffer a SIDS death. Thus, apart from a tiny minority, it did not mater whether the mother smoked or not either before birth or after birth. In connection with the tiny minority, smoking before or after birth might posssibly have had some bearing. It cannot be proven one way or the other. But it has been well known for some time that sleeping position of baby is important. It has also come to light that SIDS deaths babies have a low level of seratonin. Put sleeping position and seratonin levels together, and you have a recipe for disaster. Is smoking still a factor? Possibly, but very remote.
Thus we see that your sweeping statement ".... but let's not pretend that it's [smoking] anything other than damaging and harmful to the unborn child" is an untenable hypothesis.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 15:39 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Andrew McNair could well be right that smoking whilst pregnant is damaging and harmful to the unborn child - but on the other hand, he could be wrong.

I personally think he is wrong but maybe Mr McNair would care to elaborate and show us some real scientific proof of his assertions?

It is very easy to sit back behind a computer and call people childish names just because one doesn't agree with other people's habits - but no one ever won a debate by resorting to such childish name calling Mr McNair - facts are what count.

My case against Mr McNair's assertions is the living proof of the thousands, if not millions of people living happily and healthily today, whose mother smoked whilst pregnant. How does Mr McNair account for these people?

A year or so ago I read an article in the paper, which said scientists now agree that pregnant women should not drink - that just one or two drinks a week would harm their unborn child. Now we read that is is perfectly safe for pregnant women to drink.

It is the same with coffee - cakes - meat - and practically everything else. A 'clever' scientist can make any product work or not work, according to who's paying his wages - that is a fact Mr McNair, you should stick to them, they really do work a lot better than name calling.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 16:29 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Mr. McNair gives us the usual bland, righteous, statement with appeals to authority for support.

People like him just don't seem to understand that most of us on here have seen the so called 'research' conducted, shot full of holes and conclusions inundated with such words and phrases as 'might', 'may', 'leads to', 'could', etc. not to mention unverifiable data at the source and, therefore, confined it to the bin as not even primary school level science.

Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 14:03 | Unregistered CommenterFrank J

I agree, Frank J. The trouble is that the propagandists rely on the word 'cancer' to stick and the word 'may' to go unnoticed.Sadly, I think, it works for them, according to their unlovely purpose. A generation ago I worked as a sub-editor on a national broadsheet where the newspaper style forbade the word 'may' in a headline.It was extremely difficult to stick to. But if only such rigour could apply these days when, it seems, press releases are dropped into the page undigested.

Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 16:53 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

Forest's own response to the press release said (in part) "We don't condone smoking during pregnancy...." Well, if smoking is a harmless pursuit why not just say so and condone it in pregnancy. I'm sorry if the epithet "dimwit" seems offensive when applied to a nicotine addict but when the habit involves deliberately inhaling the fumes from burning plant material into the lungs it's hard to think of another word that fits better. I was a smoker for some years in my dimwit youth but my deteriorating lung function indicated that inhaling tobacco smoke was a seriously bad thing to do and I gave the habit up. Stopping was a big problem because nicotine is a very addictive substance and nicotine gum was only available on prescription in these days. It's much better now with a wide array of nicotine gums, sprays and patches being freely available. So I don't care if an adult chooses to smoke and takes care that their habit doesn't affect others, but smoking whilst pregnant could/might/maybe/does (take your pick) affect the foetus so is it really reasonable to take a risk, however small, of harming the unborn?

Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 0:50 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew McNair

Our bodies and our children do not belong to you dimwit. I'm sorry you got ill smoking but not everyone does. You quit because that was right for you. The one size fits all solution does not suit nor fit everyone.

After just watching a never smoking relative die in slow agony from lung disease caused by fumes from cars after years of working on the roads, I would be more likely to accept what you say if you gave up driving and killing other people - including pregnant women's children.

Even the anti-smoker industry tries to claim it's more about CO than smoking because even they recognise that .

Hands Off Our Kids - they are not yours and our lives are none of your business. Most modern parents will quit or cut down. They don't need advice from bigots like you who don't give a damn about their children but for how you can use them to push forward your own vile prejudices.

Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 13:23 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

"Most modern parents will quit or cut down." Really? If smoking is an innocuous pursuit why bother to cut down? If there is a risk I'm completely unconcerned that you inflict it on yourself but I don't think anybody has the right to expose a foetus to the chemicals that are concomitant with smoking. It's plain to me now that inhaling smoke was a bad idea and I can't think of a single reason why anybody would think it was a good thing to do. Firefighters wear respirators to protect their lungs from smoke but of course tobacco smoke may be quite different to all other types of smoke in that it's harmless with no deleterious effects on the human lung at all. However not even multi $B big tobacco has managed to pay any researcher enough to publish anything that supports that view. Like you I have my prejudices but I don't think holding opinions that smoking is a health hazard and that tobacco control is a legitimate activity for governments could be described as vile.

Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 14:49 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew McNair

Personally, I think women who drive heavily pregnant, and many do, are not thinking of what could happen. There are many risks to many things that people do but your prejudices allow you to see only one and your phobia blows up those risks well out of proportion.

Heavy smoking is not good for health whether pregnant or not, the same as heavy drinking or over eating, but I don't believe that moderate smoking is harmful.

You cannot claim ownership of anyone's foetus and stigmatising women who do something you personally fear and disapprove of is vile.

Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 20:21 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

and tobacco control is is not a bad thing altogether. It has a place as far as education is concerned. But bullying especially by Govt is wrong and modern tobacco control - which isn't supported by those early pioneers except for absolute nutters like Glanz and Banzaf who both brag about how smokers have made them rich - is out of control and won't persuade anyone with it's false scaremongering.

Bauld's junk science for example claims smokers are causing other people's obesity. Do you believe that? Really? They are becoming a laughing stock and would do well to stick to the core message which does resonate - smoking CAN be harmful.

Those who decide it isn't harming them based on a lifetime of smoking and being around smokers, as some here can testify, should not be bullied, excluded, stigmatised or marginalised because we don't agree with the overpaid propagandists at Tobacco Control which has itself become an industry as foul as Tobacco was in the 60s and 70s.

Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 20:28 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

A poster named Peter Thurgood makes the following alarming and revealing assertion in his critique of someone else's generalization about smoking and natal health: "It is the same with coffee - cakes - meat - and practically everything else. A 'clever' scientist can make any product work or not work, according to who's paying his wages - that is a fact Mr McNair, you should stick to them, they really do work a lot better than name calling." Really? This attitude toward science--an attitude which shows no acquaintance with science and which I'm afraid smacks of a level of ignorance and suspicion that borders on paranoia--runs underneath much of the posting here. It's a familiar attitude toward science and usually originates in various unprovable beliefs: personal, political, religious. (In the US we have elected officials who believe dinosaurs walked the earth 6000 years ago, and the hell with carbon dating.) But Mr. Thurgood's idea of what constitutes a "fact" is even more worrisome. He thinks of this as a "fact": a scientist "can make any product work or not work," by which I assume he means support whatever outcome those "paying his wages" wish.
I'm in favor of legalizing all substances, but rejecting actual scientific fact (disinterested, peer-reviewed, rigidly controlled, double-blind reproducible experiments and research) such as the addictive nature of nicotine, or the effects of second hand smoke (for a quick overview, see the US National Institute of Health info on the science:, it's hard to take it seriously. As for name calling, most of it in this space seems to be aimed toward researches and public policy makers, who are called fanatics, depraved, etc.
Another poster, Pat Nurse ,says, rather tellingly, "I don't believe" moderate smoking (definition of moderate, please?) is harmful. It is an amusing irony that many posters on this blog accuse others of being swayed by propaganda, but that their own arguments are based on "belief" rather than the "facts" which so many here venerate in name but have a very difficult time recognizing. Everyone's entitled to his or her beliefs, but no one should be commenting on the work of actual scientists (none of whom, I notice, are posting here) based on "belief" nor making public policy for the general good based on beliefs.

Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 2:51 | Unregistered CommenterHJCalvito

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